Carriage driving safety.

Carriage Driving safety

Pony Access uses the iBex Saddlechariot system. This is a pony drawn vehicle designed by a coward, me, to be safe. Before I explain what makes it safe for wheelchair users, driving on their own, across rough terrain, we need to look at the historical data about traditional Carriage driving risks.

Traditional carriage driving is dangerous. Two ladies with no connection to equestrian activities have died as a result of carriage driving in the last two years. One was a passenger on a tourist carriage on Sark where the horse bolted, went up the verge and overturned the carriage killing Dora Jufer and injuring 8 others. If they had been using the iBex saddlechariot safety system, nobody would have been injured, Dora Jufer would not have been killed.

(BBC News, 6July 2012.

In 2011 a lady visited her local park in Suffolk and died after a horse hitched to a carriage bolted and crashed into spectators at an event in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Carole Bullett would be alive if the iBex Saddlechariot system had been used.

(BBC News 20 June 2011.

There are no safety systems to cope with a bolting horse in traditional carriage driving. This fact is demonstrated in the 2012 Risk Assessment for The North East Driving Trials Limited, a competitive carriage driving society.

Appendix A


1) Introduction

By far the highest risk is the HORSE which is an accident waiting to happen.

Runaways by a horse or of a horse attached to a vehicle are very serious and all reasonable precautions must be taken to prevent this happening. This is stating the obvious and equally obvious is the preventative measure…… we just leave them grazing happily in the fields !!!!

(North Eastern Driving Trials Ltd Health and Safety Manual January 2012. p10)

That is all there is about bolting horses with vehicles attached. We leave them in the field or ignore the problem. The 58 page document points out frequently the risk of loose horses with vehicles, and suggests that if the air ambulance is called for an accident Drivers may wish to uncouple the horse(s) from their carriage and they should be allowed adequate time to re-couple after the helicopter has departed. (North Eastern Driving Trials Ltd Health and Safety Manual January 2012. p49)

Therefore Carriage driving experts acknowledge that a horse out of a vehicle is massively less of a risk than one in a vehicle, but assume that there isn’t any solution, because there isn’t a TRADITIONAL solution.

The iBex Saddlechariot was designed to cope with a bolting horse and a wheelchair using solo driver. It does it safely.

First we must look at the hazard, a bolting horse. The definition of a bolting horse states (of a horse or other animal) Run away suddenly out of control: “the horses bolted”. Three factors run throughout all the definitions, suddenness, speed and lack of control

The reason for bolting is simple for the horse. If it is scared its natural instinctive behaviour is to run very fast, away from threats. Horses are open country animals, so they run to open space. A wide, empty horizon is safety.

The horse doesn’t hang around thinking about bolting. To be an effective defence against predators, it needs to be instantaneous, and when running away from a threat, there is only one speed, as fast as possible.

Controlling a bolting horse is a contradiction in terms. A bolting horse has got out of control. A good horseman may be able to get the animal back under control but this will take time and luck, neither of which are available.

Training cannot eliminate basic instincts. If a pony or horse panics, it runs. The only way to stop it is brute force. No single person can stop a panicking pony, let alone a horse.

If you add a vehicle to a bolting horse, the situation is many times worse. The vehicle follows the panicking animal, panicking it further. The animal doesn’t consider the width of the vehicle, and will go through gaps that a horse will fit through but which the vehicle won’t. The vehicle is therefore banging and bouncing, further scaring the animal. This creates a positive feedback system, the faster the horse goes, the faster the thing follows him, making more and more noise and crashing into his sides and so on.

A vehicle and horse can total over a ton in weight easily, moving faster than Usain Bolt, and unable to manoeuvre or avoid obstacles or people. The results are described in the two accident reports above.

Pony Access uses the iBex Saddlechariot. The driver has a rip cord. When anything goes wrong, or when it looks like there is a risk something might go wrong, the driver pulls the ripcord and the animal is released instantly. If the animal is bolting, the vehicle stops following it. If the bolting animal aims for a gap wide enough for the animal to fit through, it fits through without a vehicle mashing anything in its way. The animal will avoid people, and objects, and aim for open space where it can see any approaching threats. Once it reaches a suitable place it stops, and pretty soon starts grazing.

The first thing the animal does, if it is allowed, is to remove itself from the vehicle. It does not hang around mugging the passengers of stealing the driver’s mobile. Heading for open space is the natural instinct of a plains living prey species. There are still risks from a bolting pony, but using the rest of the Hierarchy of Controls, the risks can be reduced to minimal. Using small ponies, not attaching metal shoes, careful pony selection, non violent training methods and all the principles discussed in the next section.

What about the driver and any passengers? Releasing the animal, applies the brakes. The driver is sitting on what has become garden furniture. The animal has departed at speed. The major risk is boredom. At least with passengers, he has someone to talk to.

The instant release system can be operated by the driver and by any helpers on the ground who can all have a ripcord. A remote control release system is available so an experienced person can oversee the activity, maybe with trainees, and still operate the safety system from a distance.

Pony Access can provide all terrain access for those with mobility problems, and provide an entry level, equestrian activity, in complete safety. I have only discussed the most serious hazard, the bolting horse with vehicle attached, but the answer to most problems is the same, release the pony and the problems of a pony drawn vehicle are removed. The risk assessment, details all the other factors which Pony Access has considered and made safe.

A bolting horse with a vehicle attached is the most dangerous scenario. With Pony Access, this is not a risk.

I have looked at the safety systems featured in the iBex. What about the Carriage Driving safety systems. The first of these appears to be the groom, at least I am always told the Saddlechariot is too dangerous because it doesn’t have a groom.

Here is a video of Boyd Exell, one of the top carriage drivers, at Aachen, with two grooms as a safety system.

I don’t see what the grooms achieve in the way of safety, however if they had a ripcord, the horses would have been loose, not attached to a heavyweight vehicle, remarkably like the one that killed Carole Bullett. Loose horses are not nearly as scared, even harnessed to each other, as horses attached to a vehicle. Also to design the system to free the horses as individuals is easy.

I will say that as well as applauding the courage of the man who caught the team, I give full credit to Boyd Exell for the stunning level of training that kept the animals from actually bolting.

The groom as a safety system doesn’t look very convincing. If you watch any private driving class, they dispense with the “safety device” as shown here.

This photo shows a carriage being driven at an event, in the ring, surrounded presumably by members of the public, and the safety system has been disabled.

Under any system of Health and safety applied to any normal industry, this would create  problems. Since it appears totally acceptable in Carriage Driving circles, I can only assume that Health and Safety rules do not apply.

If Health and Safety rules don’t apply to Carriage Driving, I think we can forget about their assertion that a groom is a safety device.

The other safety device is apparently the whip. The whip is also the preferred safety device of the Jockey Club who insist it is carried and give absolutely no instructions for its use as safety equipment. Carriage Driving doesn’t appear to have any instructions for the whip as safety device either. See here for whips and the associated risks with carrying and using them.

NFU Mutual Insurance describes the Saddlechariot as a glorified horsedrawn vehicle, but with extra safety mechanisms fitted.

Since any vehicle with extra safety mechanisms fitted, by definition is safer than those without, it means that NFU Mutual must accept that the saddlechariot safety system is better than the traditional Carriage Driving “safety systems”.





In conclusion, it is obvious that Carriage Driving is all about tradition, and all the traditions are from before the dawn of Health and Safety. Therefore Health and Safety are seen as something to be avoided if possible, and complied with under duress, and to the minimum.

But Health and Safety is not an evil ogre. Health and Safety professionals believe that workers should end the day with the same number of limbs, digits and senses as they started, and that death should be seen as an appalling result, not something to pass off with “It’s the way he’d have wanted to go.”

Pony Access believe that anyone should be able to try out equestrian based activities in total safety. If at a later date I want to drive an iBex across Mongolia, that is a informed choice. The threat of death on one’s first outing is a bit over the top. Carole Bullett died just going to the park where someone was driving a carriage. Dora Jufer took a tourist vehicle on Sark. Neither had chosen to indulge in a high risk activity.

If Saddlechariot systems were allowed to be in common use, neither lady would have died, and lots of people could start getting involved with ponies and horses in safety. That is all Pony Access wants to achieve.








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